9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Environment Attitudes and Values Building I, Auditório J.J. Laginha

Environmental public policies and public awareness in Portugal: a scenario of contradictions

Environmental issues in Portugal show historical traits distinctive from other post-war Western countries, which inherently belong to a society that maintained its rural status until mid-1970?s within a dictatorial political context. There was a prolonged lack of environmental public policies in the country. Only with the accession of Portugal to the EU (in the mid-1980s) some changes were introduced through the creation of policies and legislation, mainly by transposing EU directives onto national regulations. However, this process of implementation was in many cases ineffective. That is, it was enshrined in national policy frameworks, but with a low rate of enforcement. The State belatedly assumed its role and responsibilities on policy enforcement. This lack of commitment in enforcing environmental policies and measures is now apparent through the poor environmental indicators that the country shows in several domains.

In addition, how has the process of ?transposing? policies and legislation onto the civil society been conducted by the government?

After more than two decades of environmental policies? implementation, the social impact achieved is still incipient: despite increasing public environmental awareness (apparent through public discourse and population concerns), there is a lack of materialization of this awareness in both everyday practices and civic participation/mobilization. Compared with other European countries, Portugal is at the crossroads between northern and eastern European countries, wherein democratic information and participation practices arrived much later.

This paper discusses the persistent unsuccessful implementation of environmental policies, looking at two related problems: the weakness of environmental movements and the absence of information and communication strategies by the State.

The paper?s empirical work is based on survey material produced by Observa (Observatory for Environment, Society and Public Opinion) over the last 10 years, taking into account some environmental problems/sectors as paradigmatic cases.